India to kill tens of thousands of birds after avian flu outbreak

Baby ducks, photo: Cole Keister on Unsplash
Baby ducks, photo: Cole Keister on Unsplash

Tens of thousands of birds will be killed in India after an outbreak of the deadly avian influenza (bird flu) in the country, officials said Tuesday. Thousands of migratory birds, ducks, crows and chickens have died from two strains of the bird flu, H5N8 and H5N1.

In Kerala, authorities ordered the killing of almost 35,000 birds after 12,000 ducks died. Local authorities have banned the sale and export of birds in the region.

Bird flu is similar to swine flu, dog flu, horse flu and human flu. It’s an illness caused by strains of influenza viruses that have adapted to a specific host. 

The virus has been discovered in at least six Indian states, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Gujarat.

Officials in northern Himachal Pradesh state said dead bodies were found over the past week at a Himalayan lake where large flocks of migratory birds stay during the winter season.

“The death toll in the last week or so at the Pong lake crossed 2,400 migratory birds. Over 600 birds died on Monday,” state wildlife chief Archana Sharma told AFP.

Most of the birds that died were bar-headed geese, one of the world’s highest-flying birds, that migrate to South Asia during the winter season.

India has had bird flu outbreaks in the past, most seriously in 2008, when authorities killed millions of birds.

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